Friday, July 31, 2015

Subtle shoves

Yesterday's first look at the impeller gave rise to the thought of just leaving it alone. It looked new. Even as good as Oak Harbor has been to us we have been in this place for far too many weeks. The boat is in the water. The summer is rushing by. There are other tasks that need finished before we can go. Why waste a day doing something that doesn't need done? But changing the impeller is routine maintenance, this one was at least a couple of years old, and the cover was already off. So I grabbed it with the recommended pliers and pulled, which is when I discovered it was stuck. After rejecting the first thought of just letting it be, I pulled the pump out, set it on the bench, and let it soak in PB Blaster over night. (Not the whole pump, just where the impeller goes on the shaft.)
This morning Deb scrounged up the recommended JABSCO impeller puller which only managed to rip the rubber blade assembly off of its bronze insert. After some very esoteric attempts at making the puller work, then disassembling the pump from the wrong end backwards (I'm not sure how else to describe it) with the aid of a 12 ton press, the offending impeller insert was finally freed from the exposed shaft with the adroit ministrations of a disk grinder. None of this falls under the heading of “routine maintenance” and the disassembled parts now cover my work bench.

The 5320-0011 guts with which we are becoming all to familiar
Along the way I also discovered that the seals were dry and cracking and the wear plate is badly worn. As it the cover plate. We are looking for a parts kit to rebuild the pump, though it may be that getting a new one will be the better choice. The price is a bit scary though, so we will see.

The odd thing is I almost just let it be, and am not entirely sure why I didn't. The pump was working fine. The Beast, ever since the heat exchanger overhaul, runs at a content 178 degrees and spits plenty of water. There was no evidence that the pump was leaking and no compelling reason to do anything with it, particularly with the other tasks that are still hanging. But a subtle shove had me tripping over the impeller, and the rest unfolded like it was scripted. Had the impeller not been frozen I would never have noticed the other, impending, failures. It is hard to say how before they would have happened, but this time around we hope to be in the water for nearly three years without a major maintenance stop. We hope to be in some places where a pump failure could be a very big deal indeed. There is very little chance it would have gone that long, and a reasonable chance that it would have failed in one of those places. I don't know why I got tangled up with this pump, but I'm glad I did.

Maybe its left over from my aviation days. The best mechanics I worked with always wanted to know the “why” of a failure. Why did this wheel bearing fail inspection while the other nine passed? Why this crack in this place? What is that noise, that odd color, that strange odor? Needing to understand was a habit, nearly an obsession. They didn't miss much and I always felt comfortable flying the airplanes they maintained.

It appears to be a good habit to practice around boats as well.

The impeller was stuck. It isn't a particularly good design and looks susceptible to just such a failure. As it turns out (long story) the impeller puller would never work as advertised on this particular unit. If the impeller gets jammed, there is no getting it free short of taking the pump apart wrong way backwards. But I understand the “why” of it now, and learned that the pump was deep into its service life.  When we leave here that will not be the case.

I'll take that kind of shove any day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Days off?

The solar panel install is off to a slow start with much of yesterday's efforts going into picking out parts and suppliers. Most of that burden falls on Deb with her decades of parts buying and selling experience. I was busy enough talking things over with her and then helping to secure the forestay on a friend's boat that I barely laid a hand on Kintala. So today, needing to accomplish something to feel like progress is still being made, Deb took to starting a sewing project and I turned my attention to the WesterBeast.

Like most gear heads I have changed more than my share of engine belts. Some are easy and some are less so. The Beast, no surprise here, falls into the “less so” bracket. There has always been some wonk surrounding the alternator belt. The Beast's manual shows a list of standard and optional alternators, a list that does not include the Balmar 75 that is actually jammed into the little space available. Part of that jamming included cutting away part of the engine box next to the fridge to make room for the slotted bracket used for setting the belt tension. Every time I have changed that belt it was clear that, someday, whatever it was that was wonked up in there would have to be unwonked. Today was “someday”.

Looking over the top of the alternator at the cutout in the fiberglass for the bracket
Exorcising the wonk included doing a better job of cutting the engine box so that the bracket really did fit in there. The alternator was on and off more than a few times while things were fit, cut, lined up, tweaked, twisted, tightened, loosened, cussed at, and bled over. A life-long mechanic, I don't really enjoy doing mechanical work anymore. I would much rather play with wood, finish decks, or paint interior bits. And I really don't enjoy figuring out ways to patch up the hack-jobs someone else left behind. It is bad enough when I have to patch up my own.

But one must do what one must do so, with much ado, I beat the alternator belt into submission. It is a little tighter than I like. The spare / next belt will be just a little bit longer. At least it shouldn't leave black marks on the case any more.

The water pump belt, on the other hand, is still missing in action. It turns out all of the spares we had on board were spares for the generator that disappeared long ago. As were the impeller spares. Its a bit embarrassing to admit that I allowed us to go wandering around so ill equipped, but there you have it. We got away with it and will not be taunting King Neptune in like manor when we depart this time.

The old impeller looks, looked, almost brand new. Unfortunately it is jammed solid on its shaft and now looks much less new after attempts to pry it loose failed. Come the morrow we will be looking for the special tool it takes to extract a reluctant impeller, and hopefully some reassembly will be accomplished since the whole pump assembly is currently sitting on the work bench. But the Beast may have additional ugly surprises to spring, so no promises on the amount of progress to be made. There is oil and filters yet to be replaced so the Beast may be out of commission until next week, just when the solar panel support bits are due to arrive.

My weekend off already feels like a long time ago.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Ahead of the crest

Yesterday was the two year anniversary of Kintala leaving Boulder Marina. It was also my 60th birthday. So it seemed like there should be something special to say about the day, some profundity, some wisdom. But...I got 'nutten.

That isn't to say it wasn't a good day. I got birthday calls from Daughters Three and various grand kids, which will always make my day. Also, I really did take a full day off from working on the boat. Not a tool was touched. Not a screw turned. We had a nice Mexican Dinner with a small group of friends and family then returned to our floating tiny house. I think it safe to say I had a day much, much better than many people in the world ever have. Sixty years in and the biggest mystery in my life is why am I one of the luckiest of people? Lets face it, I am white, male, and living in the early dying stages of the most powerful empire the planet has ever known. Cracks are showing in the foundation and the next generation is going to know a completely different America, and a completely different world, than the one I have lived in. But I am riding the most exhilarating part of a monster wave before the crest breaks and washing machines the world. Most lottery winners don't have it that good.

So today started the push to get done and get gone once again. With tape measure in hand we started looking at mounting one additional solar panel. A job which, almost immediately, morphed into a major rebuild of the Bimini frame and cover. I get to rebuild the frame. Deb gets to make a new Bimini though I'm hoping to scam a little pilot-in-command time on the Sailrite machine. I'm guessing a minimum of two weeks before this job gets done. That puts us gone in the middle of August, plenty of time to do a little Chesapeake Bay exploring before the weather urges us south.

And then, who knows? Just stay ahead of the crest.

Friday, July 24, 2015

173 steps to paradise

If it was a choice between full time living on a boat on the hard or living in a well-constructed cardboard box under a bridge I would, of course, choose the boat. But it would be a close call. If the choice was between the boat and a “tiny house” located halfway up a pretty mountain, the tiny house would win hands down. Living in a boat on the hard is hard living that gets old fast. Kintala was in the stands for 70 nights, plus one night in the sling. The good news is that we were visiting family and friends in PA, IN, and MO for 36 of those days. I'm not sure what little sanity I have left to work with would have made it the whole 70 days otherwise.

Like most cruisers, while we are living hard on the hard we are also working hard on the boat. That many “hards” all lined up and added together are enough to suck all the fun out of a day. But at the moment Kintala is stern-to and secure between the pilings. It is an easy step from dock to deck, which is 173 steps from where bottom of the ladder touched the ground less than 24 hours ago. That doesn't seem like a long enough walk to get to paradise, but there is enough of a breeze to move the boat gently from slack to tight on her lines and we can hear the ducks splashing down just a few feet away. Light dancing with the water reflects on the Bimini and cabin tops and there are no cars crunching by throwing a cloud of dust into the cockpit. The 9,000-pound lead keel is now a heat sink bathed in cool water rather than a radiator slow roasting the boat. Pleasing as those physical changes might be, though, the most important change touches the heart.

We are not on land anymore. There is no physical barrier between Kintala's hull and Mother Ocean. We are free to move about the planet at our discretion.

It doesn't even matter that we will not be moving about the planet for a couple of weeks yet. There is a new solar panel to install and Deb has many magic canvas ideas waiting to flow off her sewing machine to make our lives easier. There is engine maintenance to do and one deck repair to finish. All of which could be done swinging off the anchor if we so choose.

I think we will sleep well tonight.

Full tilt boogie

Monday morning Deb and I discussed a work schedule that would work with a tentative August 16 splash day. Within a hour of that discussion we were informed that Kintala needs to be back in the water as quickly as feasible. Not really ASAP, but close. The reasons have to do with being on the hard, some Maryland state regulations, and $10,000 fines. I'm not sure I understand it all but Ken, marina owner and trusted friend, wants it that way. And that is really all we needed to know to initiate the mad scramble.

Monday late morning we started painting the bottom. Midway through, the temperature was in the mid 90's.  With the paint nearly setting up in the pans, a relentless pace was the only option.  By evening it was done though we were totally knackered.  I nearly fell asleep in the shower.

Tuesday, first thing, we went looking for parts. Then we unloaded the lazarette so I could spend the rest of the day under the cockpit replacing the scupper hoses. Tight space, terrible access even with parts of the cockpit taken apart, hot temps, and enough sharp bits to draw blood. When that was done we re-assembled the cockpit and reloaded the lazarette, taking some time to discard stuff that has been living in there for a couple of years now.  Stuff we have never used. Lines mostly, some of which came with the boat already well past their prime. I'm not sure why, but it seems a near universal sailor's trait to shudder at the thought of throwing away a line. We even debated throwing away a rock-climbing rope – which is about totally useless on a boat – because, well, it was a line. (Long boring story as to how it got on the boat in the first place.)

Then we scrounged up enough hardware to bed the anchor chain lock plate back on the fore deck. Deb is not fond of tight, small places; which is a good description of any sailboat's anchor locker. But she climbed in there anyway, so that job got done. With that finished I hoisted 200 feet of rode, 125 feet of chain, and our 65-pound Mantus back on board. It was evening by the time the anchor was locked into its normal place on the bow.  Totally knackered times two, and I might have faded for a minute or two while the cool water flowed over my neck and shoulders.  

Today (Wednesday) Deb spent the day getting the interior ready to float again. It is hard to explain to those whose homes never move just how different is life is on the water than is life on the land. Nothing can really be left just laying about, things can't be stacked too high, and cabinets need arranged so stuff doesn't come spilling out at the slightest provocation. Disciplines that are routine on the water, quickly go by the wayside when on the hard. We have been out of the water for nearly 70 days and in full project mode. One might say our living space was pretty much out of control.

I spent the day waxing the hull. Though the boat shows a few battle scars from full time cruising, she looks pretty good all shiny up top and painted on the bottom. Fitting the wind vane steering rudder with new bungees, and then re-installing same, finished off the day. 

Deb, in addition to working as hard as I am, is also nursing a damaged foot. (That seems to happen a lot on boats.)  Knackered times three I may be, but my full tilt boogie has been easier than hers.  I kept the shower water cold enough to prevent falling asleep.

Tomorrow we are scheduled to go into the lift at 1400. The prop still needs painted and the bottom paint finished. We need to take enough stuff off the boat to spend a night sleeping…somewhere. Sleeping on a boat in the slings is strictly forbidden.  That seems a bit silly to me. Sleeping on a boat in a sling can't possibly be any more hazardous than sleeping on one over a weekend, anchored out where the power boats and jet skies play.  I'm pretty sure some drunk can't run me down in the lift... unless he is in his car.  In which case the car would likely cushion our fall and all would be well with the world.  But rules is rules.

Friday morning at 0900 Kintala gets wet once again.  I expect to be in zombie land, not sure where I am or what I am doing, but getting it done nonetheless.  Once safely tied into a slip we may take the rest of the day off.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Chock full of tales

The port side salon rebuild is in the bag moving the bow repair to the head of the line. There are actually several individual items needing a look: bow cleats, anchor roller, anchor chain lock, and the starboard side line chock. The chock garnered the most concern since it appeared to have been damaged in the storm we rode out off Fox Town. Such a thing doesn't come loose unless something is squished, crushed, stripped, or otherwise rendered not up to factory spec. Kintala's bow chocks are very far forward, just inches behind the bow peak. Access to the underside is anything but pleasant.
Any serious repair to that area would rank as a first class pain in the patute.

The chocks are held down by two 5/16 inch screws that go through a plate and into the deck right at the hull / deck joint. The aft one was loose and came out with just a bit of twisting and pulling. It was too easy for what should have been a damaged fastener. It came free with some kind of dried sealant (4200 maybe) all the way down the threads.  That generally indicates that the threads were never in any kind of a nut or insert; not what I expected to see.

The front screw offered a bit more resistance, expected since it appeared to be the only one actually threaded into something. However, when it came free it too had dried sealant all the way from head to tail. With my mechanic's sense in full puzzle mode further investigation ensued. There was some serious wonk going on with Kintala's starboard bow. It seemed likely that marine industry human wanker wonk was lurking just out of sight.

And so it turned out to be.

Close examination showed that the starboard side chock was 3/8s of an inch narrower than the port side. Though close, the two parts were obviously not a match. Worse, the mounting holes on the port side chock, port side hull, and starboard side hull, are on 6 and  ½ inch centers. The odd ball starboard side chock has 6 and 5/8 inch centers. In other words it doesn't fit.

It is close though, only 1/8 inch off. It was far enough off to keep the screws from lining up with the inserts bedded in the hull. But it was close enough to allow the “installer” to slightly oversize the holes in the deck plate and fiberglass, then drive short screws into place coated with sealant. With the bonding of the additional sealant under the block itself, there was no way to tell that the chock was not actually attached to the bow in any way. It was, quite literally, just stuck on there and held in alignment with a couple of pins masquerading as 5/16s mounting screws.

The sealant, as it turned out, was pretty good stuff. Under normal docking and anchoring loads it held fine. It even handled the storms in Oriental and Charleston, though in both places it shared the load with other chocks and lines. Since those storms we have taken to running the anchor snubbing lines off just one side of the bow. Kintala seems to ride to her anchor better that way, particularly when the wind and waves pick up.

So in Fox Town the starboard chock was on its own. With a Mantus 65 hung off one end, a 23,000 pound Tartan hung off the other, and 50 knot winds driving green water over the fore deck, the sealant holding the aft screw had met its match. Fortunately for us the pitching loads were trying to drive the front screw through the deck rather than pulling it out. The next morning we sailed serenely away unaware of just how lucky we had been.

The best repair for the wonk will be finding the correct part to put on the bow. Since these chocks seem to come in sets of two we will probably end up changing both. This also leads me to believe that the wanker who installed the wonk did so because he just happened to have a chock lying around that was close enough. Why buy a new part when you can put an old part on the boat, and then charge the owner for new? Win – win, right? The boat gets a part.  The installer makes a few extra pennies.

And what does it matter if the thing isn't actually attached.

No one will ever know.